Editor's note: Elite Series pro Brandon Palaniuk replied to Barone's Open letter to Palaniuk. See Palaniuk's response.
"Let's drink to the hard working people…"
Dateline: Comes, first
It will never happen again.
Son, you will win again, probably several times.
But never again will you win your first Elite tournament.
Stanley Cup this moment.
Bring that Elite trophy everywhere…get in your truck and drive that trophy back home to Idaho. Hand it to…
…every teacher you ever had.
…every guy you ever bought bait from.
…the dude who sold you your first boat.
…every family member you have.
…the docs and nurses in the ER who took the hook out here in Mountain Home, Ark.
And then my friend, I want you to do me one other favor.
GAS UP THE TRUCK!
I want you to get in it and drive….drive a lot.
Because I want you to bring it by the home of every B.A.S.S. Federation Nation member out there.
Even the dudes overseas.
Because Brandon, dude, this trophy is theirs as well.
And you son, are the steward of their dreams.
"…let's drink to the salt of the earth…"
Tell every Fed Nation member go ahead, sleep in your truck, tell them you did, tell them about having a couple bucks in their pocket, tell them about 12-18 hour drives from lake to lake, tell them about unrolling blankets under the launch ramp lights, tell them about gas station food.
And then hand them the iron.
The chrome and glass trophy.
The one with your name etched in it.
Tell them simply this….dream.
Tell them simply this…work.
Tell them simply this…sacrifice.
Championships hurt. If you have won something and the path to the win hasn't bloodied you, throw it back.
When I lose, I puke.
When I lose, I beat up the pillow at night, and then cry into it.
After one loss I walked into the hotel room, looked at my all dressed up self in the mirror, and tore the mirror off the hotel wall.
Took years before the Hyatt would have me back.
But you now know that when you held that first Elite trophy high over your head…all that…everything you've been through…
…was worth it.
Whisper that to every B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Member you hand it to.
Say exactly this to them, in a whisper…."Hey dude…I was once you…I did it, you can too, when the opportunity comes…TAKE IT."
"…let's drink to the three thousand million…"
Today, before Brandon won, I took the long walk down to where he was sitting in his boat, waiting for his turn to raise the glory.
When he saw me, he jumped down from his boat and came up to me and gave me a strong hug, and whispered to me, "Thank you for staying."
There was no bragging on his part.
There was no chest beating.
There was no “I told you so" crapola.
There was only thanks.
Normally, I don't stay for the final weigh-in; I'm usually on the road trying to get a jump on the next event, the next story.
On Thursday, after weighing in a big bag I congratulated him and he asked me, "If I'm fishing on Day Four, will you be here?"
So you know, I have a son one year younger than Brandon…I have socks a few years older than Brandon. Whenever I look into Brandon's face, I see the eyes of my son, see the eyes of my daughter; couldn’t say no even if I wanted to.
When Brandon thanked me for staying, as I tried to regain my composure, I told him, in a voice that cracked several times, this:
And the young man, the 24-year-old young man who from this moment on will always be known as "an Elite champion," whispered back…
"I will, db."
And in the wind blown field as I took the long walk back to the crowd, I couldn't hold back the tears.
Tears not of sadness.
Tears of hope.
Tears of…you know this darn thing works.
This grassroots thing we have that's known as B.A.S.S. Federation Nation.
Tears for all the Brandon's out there, young or old.
Tears for a country that allows, if not downright encourages, stuff like this to happen.
Thank you Federation Nation for sending us your Brandons.
Thank you for sending us your best and brightest.
When Brandon held that trophy in his hands, please know this…
…your finger prints were all over it.
"…let's think of the humble of birth."
“Salt Of The Earth”
The Rolling Stones